EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Bears would be near the top of the standings were the NFL a 30-minute league, ending games at that point instead of needing to win a second half,
But for the second straight week the Bears failed to score in a second half, one this time that ended with a Jay Cutler interception that seemed somehow a statement of its own, complete with a foot-slip and a pass that was an easier catch for an opposing defensive back than for the intended receiver.
Contributing to the problem in the situation was a group meltdown: sack allowed on first down and an illegal-shift penalty on second, creating a second-and-29 after a first-and-10 at the New York 30.
“I tried to put it over the top to [Marquess Wilson], give him the chance there,” Cutler said. “Whatever, long yards there to pick up.”
The offense started the game with three straight scoring possessions, the first time all season for this. Those would also be the only scoring possessions of the game for the Bears.
Jay Cutler was moderately strong in the first half when the run game was working and holding up the rush. He faltered increasingly in the second half as the rush got closer and he was on too many occasions slow to get the ball out of his hands and into receivers’ based on faster reads.
His defining moment was again a turnover, the fourth time in his five starts this season in which he has thrown at least one interception. This one was effectively game-ending, an underthrown ball toward Marquess Wilson that was intercepted inside the New York 25 on what had a chance to be a game-winning drive.
“I went to step and my foot just kind of bounced a little bit,” Cutler said. “Kind of got wider [stance] than I wanted to. Hips didn’t work. I couldn’t get through the throw and it came out flat.”
Cutler was under more pressure in the second half but also seemed rattled and breaking down when forced into faster decisions.
What was most disturbing about Cutler’s performance was that he was 11-for-14 in the first half with a solid run game. In the second half, with the Giants adjusting to take away the run, Cutler was a poor 6-for-16 even against a defense clearly fine with making him throw to win.
[MORE BEARS-GIANTS COVERAGE: Bears defense grades]
Running back: C+
The game plan was clearly structured to run through the backs rather than Jay Cutler’s arm. Jordan Howard was outstanding early, with 72 yards in the first half, on 12 carries. The rookie finished with 77 yards on 17 carries (4.5 ypc.).
Howard committed a glaring drop in the fourth quarter on a screen pass intended to get the offense out of a deep hole. He failed to hold onto a low throw on the following snap, although the play would not have gone for any real yardage. Howard caught just one of eight passes thrown to him.
Jeremy Langford worked in place of Howard and was effective as a receiver, catching three passes in the first half. Langford was shut out in the second half and finished with just eight yards on his six carries.
Missing Alshon Jeffery because of a suspension, tight end Zach Miller produced on a 29-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter and followed that with a grab for 34 yards to put the offense again in scoring position a possession later. Miller finished the first half with catches on all three of his targets, for 61 yards. But Miller hobbled off the field with a foot injury late in the half.
Run blocking by receivers was abysmal and badly hurt the run game with a couple of blown assignments resulting in sizeable losses.
Cam Meredith caught four passes for 49 yards but was flagged for an illegal shift on the next-to-last Bears snap, adding five yards to what the Bears needed to sustain their final drive. Cutler was intercepted on the next play.
Marquess Wilson celebrated his first game back from PUP list with a 35-yard reception in the fourth quarter to get the offense into New York territory. He was targeted on the final play, the interception, but had little chance to make the catch or break up the ball.
“It’s kind of hard to come back when you’re turned upfield, and you see it at the last minute,” Wilson said. ”[Cutler] gave me a shot and I have to come up and make that play.”
Offensive line: C-
Very difficult to evaluate because of injuries but the NFL does not grade on a curve. The Bears were generally effective up front in the first half, not at all so in the second.
Despite (or maybe because of) missing right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Bobby Massie, coaches put the offense in the hands of the line with a run-based plan that was successful early. The injury problem worsened when Josh Sitton had to be helped off the field in the second quarter with an ankle injury. Sitton and center Cody Whitehair were strong in the run game getting to the second level.
Mike Adams at right tackle was badly overmatched in pass protection, unable to stand up to power rushes and contributing to a pair of sacks of Jay Cutler. Adams was bull-rushed by Jason Pierre-Paul for a strip sack of Cutler.
“It wasn’t anything special,” said Pierre-Paul. “I just beat him. I rushed the edge and that was basically it. It wasn’t anything special.”
Coordinator Dowell Loggains might have been dubbed predictable after putting football in the hands of running backs on six of the first seven first-down plays but the reality was that the Bears effectively said they were running the ball and defied the Giants to stop them, which they couldn’t. The result was a game plan that did not run entirely through Jay Cutler’s arm, and the Bears led 16-9 after the first half with a 17-14 run-pass balance.
The problem came in the second half when the Giants took away the run game, yet the Bears were unable to devise any sort of passing adjustment to exploit the situation. Despite being in a one-score game, Loggains called just eight run plays in the second half vs. 20 pass plays, and too many of the latter appeared to be deep drops behind an offensive line missing three starters.
Coordinator Vic Fangio eschewed any unorthodox scheming to handle Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr., and the Bears were effective at controlling the Giants’ primary downfield threat despite getting little pressure on Eli Manning. The Giants had one completion of 48 yards, but no others longer than 20 yards, and the run defense allowed just 3.5 yards per New York rush.
Special teams had individual breakdowns but more problems of execution than scheming.